Published: Thursday, May 10, 2007
Renowned trumpeter to return to hometown Warren for benefit
Sean Jones, 28, works with some of the biggest names in jazz.
By JOHN BENSON
Whenever rising jazz trumpet star Sean Jones returns to northeast Ohio, the Warren native's reaction remains the same.
"It's like a homecoming," said Jones, calling from his New York City home. "Always, I get emotional."
The emotion quotient will be even higher when this 1996 Warren G. Harding High School and 2000 Youngstown State University graduate makes a homecoming performance at the Warren Gridiron Club's Athletes are Musicians & Artists 2 benefit jazz concert Saturday at Stambaugh Auditorium.
Even though his travels have taken him around the world while working with some of the biggest names in jazz Wynton Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr., et al. it's northeast Ohio that he says provided the biggest influence on his music.
"It's the spirituality, first and foremost," Jones said. "The people in northeast Ohio, I don't think they're highly religious people but there's a very strong sense of spirituality and humanity. Like generally people really care about the next man. In northeast Ohio, you can go and borrow sugar from your neighbor. And you'll have your neighbor over for dinner and talk to them on the porch. Everybody knows everybody and it's a very human kind of a feeling.
"It's different from the extreme East Coast like New York City, Washington, D.C., and Boston. There's no connectedness. Maybe I'm biased because it's home but there is something about the people in Ohio. There's a very soft, warm embracing of humanity."
That sense of humanity and giving back to the community is something Jones has been preoccupied with for years. On the tip of his tongue are plenty of names that played a major role in his development as not only a musician but a man. He talks fondly about Warren G. Harding Musical Director Richard Rollo and Youngstown State University professor Tony Leonardi.
However, it's local elementary teacher Jessica Turner who was the first to introduce Jones to the world of jazz. As is the case with many young and aspiring jazz artists, Miles Davis changed Jones' life. What makes this so unique is the fact the pivotal moment came when he was a sixth-grader at Secrest Elementary School.
"She actually noticed I was always ahead in the book in band," Jones said. "One day, I came in school and as always, before anyone else I was playing a chromatic scale and she said, 'How'd you learn that?' I told her that I had taught myself. So she called my mother and said, 'I think this kid is going to be something' and she asked if she could take me to lunch, and my mom said, 'Yes.' She took me to lunch, to eat my favorite food, which was pizza. And she gave me two records, one was Miles Davis 'Tutu' and the other one was Miles Davis 'Kind of Blue.'"
Tantamount to an artist discovering a rainbow of colors after years of monochromatic painting, Davis blew Jones' mind. Furthermore, the experience cemented his future.
"Immediately when I heard that sound, I knew that that is what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life in some capacity," Jones said. "I didn't know I was going to be making a career out of it and I didn't know that I was going to end up here but I knew I wanted to play music for the rest of my life."
Perhaps rooted in the fact so many teachers played a significant role in his life, Jones decided to spend his first year after college teaching music at an East Cleveland elementary school. Not only was the experience eye-opening and rewarding but it set the table for his future. Indeed he continues to explore his art and whenever possible, teach music.
Today, Jones, who received his master's degree in music from Rutgers University, teaches at Duquesne University. He's also a member of the prestigious Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which is touring later this spring with Wynton Marsalis and Odadaa! The group is supporting Marsalis' new project "Congo Square" with a June 18 show at the Allen Theatre in Cleveland.
In addition, Jones is prepping for the release of his fourth studio album "Kaleidoscope," which is due out in August. The album marks the first time vocalists will be adorning Jones' music.
"It's a little bit of everything," Jones laughed. "A lot of it is just straight jazz, but there are also some R&B-esque tunes, some world music on there and more." He's also already thinking ahead to his fifth album, which is tentatively titled "Transitions" and due out in 2008.
What's amazing is the fact Jones has accomplished so much at the tender age of 28. When it's noted his résumé belies his age, he quipped, "Born yesterday but I stayed up all night."
Indeed he did. Welcome home native son, we've missed you.